AmericanIdol.com – the world’s largest interactive event – is based on the television program American Idol, produced by FremantleMedia North America, Inc. Overseen by Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC), AmericanIdol.com offers fans a rich environment in which to interact, access more information about the show and its contestants, and view exclusive streaming videos and content. While AmericanIdol.com was the highest trafficked TV show site in 2008, the FBC team is constantly seeking out ways to increase: The number of site visitors, time visitors spend on the site and advertising revenues.
Prior to the 2008 broadcast season of American Idol, the company decided to prioritize and enhance the video experience across the site. The strategy was to capitalize on the rise of streaming video consumption, and the fact that video sponsorships offer a key opportunity to expand revenues and reach wider audiences through user-based syndication. To fully realize their vision, the FBC team needed to introduce features such as full-screen online video and embeddable links, while adding more custom video channels to AmericanIdol.com. Because their homegrown video player solution lacked the sophistication to support these needs, the team sought out a new solution.
To support its objectives, FBC needed a media delivery solution that met the following four requirements:
While FBC has digital rights for American Idol in the US, the show is owned by production company FremantleMedia. To ensure profitability, FBC needed a streaming video player that didn’t require it to further split its profits. “We came across a number of video publishing solutions based on a CPM revenue-sharing pricing model. Using one of those solutions would erode our profit margins as our success grew – which wasn’t an option,” explains Wilcox.
The Open Video Player code is available to any company to use as it wishes. That means FBC is free to embed as many advertisements as it wants in multiple online video players, and keep all related revenues. This is tremendously valuable as traffic on the American Idol site grows. In fact, the site is now more popular than ever. Traffic spikes are nearly 7 Gbps and video views increased 37% year over year.
Many streaming video player solutions are locked and compiled, limiting the flexibility of content publishers. “With the Open Video Player, we have full control over the source code. The possibilities are virtually endless,” explains de Armas.
The FBC team also likes the fact that the source code is based on an open source license with a community of companies and developers making contributions on www.sourceforge.com. “We can take advantage of constant innovations being contributed by advertising technology companies,” continues de Armas.
The Open Video Player code enables americanidol.com to develop and standardize on a core media player that can be leveraged in multiple ways. FBC simply re-skins the layer for each unique channel and advertiser. This is especially important as it develops high-value custom sponsorships built around branded content from companies such as Coca-Cola Enterprises and Garnier.
“One simple way to scale our ad strategy is to re-brand our player to support custom sponsorships and on-air tie-ins. With the Open Video Player, we can do that quickly and easily which helps our bottom line and offers advertisers unique opportunities,” explains Wilcox.
At the same time, this capability enables FBC to easily take advantage of syndication – while controlling its content. “There is only so much advertising we can support on our site. Syndicating via the Open Video Player not only expands our audience reach and video ad inventory, it makes it possible to control the quality of the content appearing on third-party sites,” continues Wilcox.
While the FBC technical team likes the idea of using open source code, it also understands the potential risks. “Our concerns were put to rest knowing that Akamai engineers dedicated over a year developing and testing the code. We essentially got free code that’s been tested for quality assurance,” explains de Armas.
Because FBC didn’t have to worry about coding, debugging and QA, it was able to launch a robust streaming video player much more quickly than anticipated. In addition, the code’s support for a standards- based Media RSS workflow greatly streamlined updates. “We were able to focus on adding value to the player experience instead of on mundane video player development tasks. Not only did we get to market in just six weeks – in time for the season eight launch – but we ended up with a more functional player than we thought possible,” concludes de Armas.
Fox Digital Media (FBC) is an interactive services company dedicated to connecting, informing, entertaining and empowering consumers with the most compelling online media experiences. FBC’s business is structured into three arms: Web Properties, the FBC Audience Network and the Digital Publishing Group. FBC’s popular Internet destinations across social media and high-value content verticals reach the largest global audience of any major media company. For more information, visit www.newscorp.com.